We have a new Lara Croft, and not only is Alicia Vikander's take on the adventurer in Tomb Raider great, she improves upon the original Angelina Jolie version in some key ways. The new film takes its inspiration from the 2013 reboot of the video game; it details Lara's origin and takes her on her first adventure that would launch her storied career as a Tomb Raider. That strong story naturally means several aspects of the action-packed cinematic reboot are better than the Tomb Raider films that preceded it, but it all begins with both Lara and the actress who portrays her.
The two actresses who have embodied the world's most famous video game-turned-movie heroine share a few things in common. Vikander and Jolie are both Academy Award-winners and, ironically, neither is British; Jolie is American and Vikander is Swedish. Yet they have each delivered iconic performances as the titular Tomb Raider. Both of their incarnations deal with lingering issues regarding the disappearance of Lara's father, Lord Richard Croft, and this provides the motivation that launches them into their adventures (at least it does for Jolie in her first film). However, Jolie and Vikander's individual take on Lara are very different, drawing upon the particular strengths of each actress.
Jolie's Lara certainly has legions of fans who fondly remember the style and swagger she emanated in the role, but here's why Alicia Vikander ultimately delivers the superior Lady Croft:
This Page: Alicia Vikander's Lara Croft Is A Better Character
Alicia Vikander's Lara Croft Is A Better Character
"I'm not that kind of Croft," Vikander's Lara proudly declares in Tomb Raider. Indeed, her statement doubles as a wink-wink meta-commentary that Vikander is going in a markedly different direction while still honoring Jolie's turn as Lara.
Quite simply, Vikander's Lara is a much better character. We meet Lara at 21 years old, and she doesn't begin already a millionaire. Rather, she strives to live as a regular person; orphaned after her father disappeared on a mysterious expedition to the remote Japanese island of Yamatai seven years prior, Lara rejects inheriting the Croft family fortune and control of its vast business empire. The opening act depicting Lara's workaday life as an East London bicycle courier, her camaraderie with her friends, and her dedication to mixed martial arts (even though he loses) makes Lara more relatable and endearing.
Vikander charms as a plucky underdog who isn't automatically the best at everything she does. When she discovers her father's secret research and decides to find the Japanese tomb of the Empress Himiko Lord Croft sought, she is in over her head. But Lara is courageous, and this drives her on her first adventure to Hong Kong, where she commissions a boat to take her to the dangerous island located in the stormy seas of the Devil's Triangle.
Upon reaching the island, Lara finds herself against a heavily-armed mercenary army led by Vogel (Walton Goggins), who is also searching for Himiko's tomb at the behest of a shadowy organization called Trinity. Lara is placed in relentless mortal danger and battles not just the mercenaries, but the elements of the island itself. It's one harrowing ordeal after another for the burgeoning Tomb Raider, but as Lara survives each calamity and ultimately triumphs, fans find themselves firmly rooting for her. We see her grow into becoming the Lara Croft she is meant to be, and it's a rousing experience.
Vikander's Lara is also emotionally wounded, which makes her a more compelling person. She spent years nursing the hurt of being abandoned by her father, and she's driven to complete his work so we understand why she becomes a Tomb Raider. On the island, she manages to find closure with her father, finally accepting him and his faults, and she is empowered by the experience. By the end of her first adventure, Lara has completed her Hero's Journey, and Vikander vividly portrays Lara's on-screen evolution. She transforms into a bold hero confident in her proven smarts and skills as a true survivor, and we're with her every step of the way. Lara says outright, "I'm not a superhero", but Vikander's version of Lady Croft becomes a real hero worth rooting for.